By Susan Stephens
DeKalb, IL – Illinois lawmakers have a week to solve or delay some enormous issues before they head home for the summer. The Spring legislative session ends Friday, and lawmakers are nowhere near agreement on how to bridge an estimated 13-billion dollar budget deficit.
Steve Brown is House speaker Michael Madigan's spokesman. He says there's still talk of a cigarette tax hike and a tax amnesty program that could bring some money into state coffers. But with any major tax hike unlikely, the state could end up with a make-shift budget that only covers necessities.
A bare-bones budget means that groups awaiting payments from the state would have to wait even longer. One temporary solution could come up for a vote this week: universities would be allowed to borrow money to cover their bills while waiting for state dollars. Brown says House Speaker Madigan supports that plan, but that's no guarantee it will pass. He says lawmakers have to question the wisdom of borrowing for operations, but they're trying to be reasonable and responsive to requests from universities.
NIU spokesman Ken Zehnder says while the university doesn't want to resort to borrowing, it would be good to have it as an option. He thinks with some tweaking of the legislation, lawmakers could approve the borrowing plan this week. The state is more than 43-million dollars behind in payments to NIU, as of Monday, May 3rd.